2023 NL East Preview

During last spring’s CBA negotiations, the owners pushed for, and got, a fourth layer to the “luxury tax” penalties…the other owners wanted to discourage Mets owner Steve Cohen’s free spending ways. He scoffed and this winter pushed his team’s payroll right past it. The Phillies, fresh off winning the NL pennant did their best to keep up with the Joneses. The Braves, division champs for each of the past five years, took a more conservative approach to the offseason. Below I address each team in the division in the order in which I think they will finish.

Atlanta Braves. They let Dansby Swanson depart via free agency and are promoting from within. They did, however, go out and get catcher Sean Murphy. Their hopes for a sixth straight division crown, though, rest more on the return to health of Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, and Eddie Rosario.

New York Mets. They let Carlos Correa slip through their fingers, and he is still with the Twins. Jacob deGrom left in free agency. They’ve replaced deGrom with Justin Verlander. However, Edwin Diaz and Jose Quintana are both out with injuries, so the pitching staff is probably weaker than last year. The batting lineup, led by Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Francisco Lindor, is formidable. There is plenty of reason for optimism among Mets fans, but they’ve had plenty of heart break before—just last year winning 100 games but not the division and then immediately getting bounced from the playoffs. Late season drop offs have not been a rarity in their history, so there will always be angst mixed in with optimism for them.

Philadelphia Phillies. They added Trea Turner to the top of their batting order and Taijuan Walker to the back of their rotation. However, Bryce Harper is out until the second half recovering from Tommy John surgery. They signed Craig Kimbrel as their closer, but I think by the end of the season that role will be filled by Seranthony Rodriguez. This is a strong team, but finishing higher in the standings will require a lot of things to go right, including Nick Castellanos to hit well all year and not just the second half.

Miami Marlins. They obtained 2022 AL batting champion Luis Arraez from the Twins. They added free agents Johnny Cueto, Jean Segura, and Yuli Gurriel…all three are upgrades to their previous roster. Arraez at second moves Jazz Chisholm to center field. Last season he was limited to 60 games by injury…but produced 2.4 WAR. The Marlins certainly hope he stays healthy this year while replicating that level of production. Fangraphs projects the team at 81-81. Pencil them in around 75 wins for me, an improved team but not a winning one.

Washington Nationals. They won the World Series in 2019. Then they sloughed most of their best known players over the next three years, culminating in last year’s 55-107 record, worst in MLB. Is there reason for hope in DC? Not in the short run. Their one reliably good pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, is injured. The rest of their staff is either unproven or proven to not be that good. Ditto for the position players. Here’s hoping for their sakes that they draft well, as the trickiest part of tearing down and rebuilding is the building part.

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